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Trans student vows to continue battle to compete against biological girls

By CM Chaney · October 30, 2023

In brief…

  • Trans student fighting West Virginia sports ban vows to keep competing
  • Has taken puberty blockers; lawyers argue prevents male physical advantages
  • Mother says she continues dedicated sports practice despite pushback
  • Case appears headed to Supreme Court as trans athlete debate rages
Transgender student Becky Pepper-Jackson, who is challenging West Virginia's ban on trans athletes, has vowed to continue her legal fight to compete in girls' sports and has taken puberty blockers to try to counter arguments about physical advantages.  jenaragon94 / Wikimedia

Becky Pepper-Jackson, a 13-year-old transgender student in West Virginia, has vowed to continue her years-long legal battle to compete in school sports against biological girls. She says she “won’t give up” despite pushback.

In 2021, West Virginia banned transgender athletes from competing in middle school, high school and college sports. Becky is fighting to remain on her school’s cross-country, discus and shot-put teams.

On Friday, Becky was in court as lawyers argued the ban is unconstitutional before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. She has been allowed to compete due to an injunction, but the case could reach the Supreme Court.

Becky’s decision to take puberty blockers could become central. Experts say going through male puberty confers permanent physical advantages, even after transitioning. Her lawyers argue the blockers will prevent her from experiencing male puberty.

“It could have been drafted to actually adopt criteria that are relevant to athletic performance, but it doesn’t,” said ACLU lawyer Joshua Block. “It picks criteria that define being transgender.”

West Virginia argues biological differences justify separation in sports. Several states have moved to ban providing minors with irreversible puberty blockers amid concerns over de-transitioning.

Despite pushback, Becky’s mother Heather says she continues to diligently practice her sports.

“She tries to excel in everything that she does, just like any other kid,” Heather said.

“I want to keep going because this is something I love to do, and I’m not just going to give it up,” Becky added.

West Virginia was among the first states to restrict trans athletes. 23 others have passed similar laws, with some blocked by courts. Gov. Jim Justice cited his experience coaching girls basketball in backing the ban.

Heather says Becky’s inclusion hasn’t affected her negatively at school. But she says it’s disappointing to see states continue passing trans athlete bans.

On Friday, the state argued biological differences justify separation. But Block said even their expert agreed differences before puberty are “minimal.” The case appears destined for the Supreme Court.

Debate intensified with the success of trans NCAA swimmer Lia Thomas. Some experts and athletes argue trans women retain physical advantages from male puberty.